Scientist Louis de Smet of Wageningen University & Research (WUR) has been awarded a Vici grant for his research proposal on efficient and selective water desalination. The Vici grant is the second largest personal scientific award in the Netherlands and targets experienced researchers. In total, 12 leading scientists will be awarded a maximum of 1.5 million euros from the Dutch Research Council (Dutch acronym NWO).
In addition to being a chemist in Wageningen, De Smet is also affiliated with Wetsus, a research institute in the domain of sustainable water technology. With his team, he studies nano-permeable 2D and 3D materials. These materials have “pores” measuring several nanometres. Some of these materials have properties that are useful for energy storage. They may also be deployed to desalinate water through so-called electrically powered separation processes. Salt and other nutrients can already be extracted from the water for purification purposes. De Smet is interested in valuable substances in the water, such as dissolved metals and nutrients.
The winning research proposal focuses on adding selectivity to such materials and fundamentally unravelling this selectivity through physical and chemical modification of the materials. This innovative approach should enable the extraction of salt in its purest form. This is often required as a prerequisite for recycling metals and nutrients. Through a multidisciplinary approach with three industrial partners and two research institutes, the group also works on material stability and upscaling the separation process in an energy-efficient manner.
Veni, Vidi, Vici
Together with the Veni and Vidi grants, the Vici fund is part of the NWO talent programme. The Vici grant is available for very experienced researchers who have successfully demonstrated the ability to develop their own innovative research path and who can coach young scientists. The 1.5 million euros in funding enables De Smet to create his own research group. According to the NWO, past experiences indicate that a Vici-grant is frequently a springboard to permanent tenure as a professor.
More in March
These grants are related to the 2021 Vici round, part 1. The awards for the Vici grants within the domains of Exact Sciences and Natural Sciences as well as Social and Behavioural Sciences are expected in mid-March. The assessment by the NWO is taking longer than anticipated due to the covid pandemic and subsequent absenteeism. To prevent all scientists from remaining in the dark, the awards for, among others, Applied and Technical Sciences have been disclosed.